This year you’ll need to make a bit more effort than usual to support the local Remembrance Day poppy campaign — and we hope you do. That’s because, among its many devastating impacts, COVID-19 has walloped local branches of the Royal Canadian Legion especially hard.
The pandemic has made it difficult for them to distribute their traditional poppies. Some Legion branches won’t place volunteers inside the malls, for instance, since that’s risky to the health of the veterans and other fine people doing this important work, which funds a host of charitable causes.
The poppies usually available at your local Tim Horton’s aren’t so visible this year, either, since most people are doing drive-through and won’t see them.
And a lot of us are avoiding stores in general, so we might never run across poppy donation boxes near the cash registers.
But that’s just the start of the problem for our local Legions. Like other organizations, they got squeezed in the COVID lockdown starting in March. That deprived them of the revenue they normally bring in from social events in their halls: weekly special dinners, Friday night darts, bingo and trivia nights or bookings for weddings or memorials.
In normal times, these gatherings help pay the rent and utilities. Not so during this year of COVID clampdowns.
“I would not be surprised if many Legions just cannot make it,” one local Legion branch president told Postmedia. “We are basically shut down and cannot generate any revenue.”
A final big cost, of course, is social: Seniors who would normally spend time at Legion halls now face isolation at home as public-health officials warn the vulnerable to avoid in-person gatherings with anyone outside their own immediate families or close friends. They can’t meet up with friends at the Legion, and that’s bad for their mental health.
But Legion members are nothing if not resilient. Some are trying GoFundMe campaigns to raise money. Please donate.
Others are partnering with different groups to find new ways of helping out, for instance by hosting blood-donor clinics or by making and selling face masks. More than one Legion is offering drive-through meals.
There is other hope on the horizon, too: The federal government has set aside $20 million to help veterans’ groups. It’s just not clear who will get the money or when. But fingers crossed that it keeps the lights on for Canada’s Legion branches.
Meanwhile, please go and buy a poppy.